Revealed: How Arteta promised to bin Aubemeyang, Ozil and Mustafi on day one of Arsenal job

Tom Curren
  • Updated: 7 Mar 2022 12:56 GMT
  • 5 min read
Mikel Arteta, Arsenal, 2021/22
© ProShots

Mikel Arteta’s first two years as Arsenal manager has had ups and downs, but with his vibrant, youth-lead squad gunning for their first Champions League qualification in half a decade, few can argue he’s not beginning to look like the real deal.

Tactically, Arteta’s side has undergone a stark revolution since the counter-attacking 3-5-2 that won them the FA Cup in his first season in charge. Now they’re an energetic, high-pressing side that attack with slick passing moves orchestrated by Martin Odegaard.

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But Arteta has had as big an impact off the pitch as he has on it. A video clip surfaced on Twitter recently of the Spaniard’s first press conference as Gunners boss, and many found it interesting to look back at some of the comments in light of Arteta’s tenure so far.

What promises did Arteta make?

Of his tactical ideas, Arteta was understandably secretive.

So the first substantial thing he said to the press as Arsenal manager was not about how his side would play, but about how they’d think. Attitude was key to his plans.

“Everybody has to respect each other first of all,” he said. “And I want people who are accountable for what I’m asking them to do. I don’t want them hiding, I want people to take responsibility for their jobs and I want people who deliver passion and energy to the football club.

“Anyone who doesn’t buy into this, or has a negative effect, is not good enough for this environment or this culture.”

Since Arteta arrived and made these statements, the exodus among playing staff - especially older, engrained players, some of whom were deemed untouchable - has been immense.

In fact, Arteta has slashed the wage bill substantially: from an annual £131m in the year he arrived to £81m this season, according to Spotrac. All while Arsenal’s league position drastically improved.

So, Arteta has stood by his principles and shifted dead weight - but who’s been the most high-profile departures?

Which players did Arteta kick out?

Mesut Ozil

The earliest high-profile departure under Arteta - and certainly the one that made the most headlines - was Mesut Ozil to Fenerbache in 2021.

Ozil started life okay under his new manager, and made the cut in Arteta’s first few squads.

But things soured quickly after the pandemic brought the 2019/2020 season to a halt in March and Ozil was excluded from Arsenal’s Premier League squad for the following season. Although Arteta insisted the decision was tactical, many pointed to Ozil’s refusal to take part in a pandemic-related club-wide paycut as a possible reason for his exodus.

Regardless, Ozil was a high-earner who didn’t fit Arteta’s longterm vision for squad unity; he got the boot.

Skhodran Mustafi

Mustafi was signed for £35m in 2016. Many immediately raised eyebrows at the fee, but decent form at previous clubs Valencia meant hopes for the German international were high.

But Mustafi’s time at the Emirates was clouded by high-profile defensive clangers that earned him a reputation for disaster. He was also close with Mesut Ozil; they won the World Cup together in 2014.

By Arteta’s first summer in charge, we was out the door - the club and player mutually decided to terminate his contract, and he went home to Germany. Arsenal’s defense has been utterly overhauled under Arteta, and many will point to Mustafi’s exit as the starting point.

Willian's tenure at the Arsenal was not his finest hour
© ProShots - Willian's tenure at the Arsenal was not his finest hour


Willian was one of the first players brought into the club under Arteta. Arriving for free from Chelsea in 2020, he would go on to epitomise the mediocrity of the Spaniard’s first full season in charge. His massive, £250,000-a-week contract was torn up after just a year.

Admitting later that his time at Arsenal was ‘the worst time he had lived as a professional,’ Willian’s off-pitch woes clearly contributed to his rapid decline in Arteta’s plans.

He went home to Brazil - and childhood club Corinthians - and Arsenal were left to bemoan a very expensive mistake.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Possibly a higher profile departure than even Mesut Ozil, Aubameyang’s transfer to Barcelona in January 2022 - where he’s hit the ground running - was a huge story.

But it wasn’t a surprise. After being handed a bumper contract renewal in 2020 - amid a frenzied marketing campaign which comically (at least in hindsight) played Auba up as the next Henry - the Gabon international failed to capture the form that saw him clutch Arteta’s first silverware at the club.

After a second disciplinary breach in 2021, it was clear his time as Arsenal’s talisman was up. Arteta’s ruthless approach to squad disruption was obvious once again: Auba was stripped of the captaincy and shipped unceremoniously off to Catalonia, for both the club’s benefit and his own.

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